A basic but legal everywhere alternative to the AR-15.
My son was in the market for a rifle, something suitable for the roof rack of the UTV that serves as a workhorse on his sizeable homestead. Enter CVA’s .300 Blackout Scout. As envisioned, it would be a basic gun with more punch than a rimfire, but less bark than a high-powered rifle, preferably in a handy and weatherproof package, capable of withstanding some abuse without constant maintenance. Sounded to me like a “truck gun”, the generic description of a reasonably-priced firearm earmarked for protracted periods spent in suboptimal environments.
A possible contender was CVA’s Scout. For nearly a decade, one of these simple break-barrel single-shots has weathered bumps and temperature extremes in the nether regions of my F-150. Can’t say it’s really the worse for wear either, despite less than regular attention. It endures, mostly thanks to its stainless-steel construction, synthetic stock, and protective AR-type soft-case.
The latter’s external pockets are stuffed with a popular AR load but, instead of magazines, the contents are 10-round sleeves of .300 Blackout cartridges. Why this caliber? Similar to the needs of my son, it provides a useful level of power and range without excessive noise – along with an intriguing ultra-quiet option.
But first, a closer look at the rifle: CVA’s Scout.
The CVA .300 Blackout Scout Series
Like many other single-shots the Scouts are break-barrel designs with external hammers. However, unlike those produced by H&R, etc., the CVA doesn’t incorporate a standard opening lever. Instead, it uses a system similar to Thompson/Center’s switch-barrel Contenders and Encores (now discontinued).
A firm squeeze of a tang on the trigger guard allows the hinged barrel to “break” (or unlock), exposing its chamber for loading. To fire, swing the barrel closed and cock the hammer. Per the T/C, fired cases are extracted manually – with one major difference. Although CVA Scout barrels mount to their frames via a similar sturdy hinge-pin, the Contender’s multi-caliber system is unavailable.
Its predecessor, CVA’s discontinued Apex, did offer interchangeable barrels (I still own one in several calibers barrels to include the .300 Blackout). Like the T/Cs, swapping barrels is easily accomplished by tapping out a pin. But, apparently, the main attraction of the CVA was the gun itself.
The beefier and pricier Apex is no more, but the Scout continues to thrive and evolve. Advertised as “the new standard in affordable single-shot rifles” it’s available in several popular calibers. The latest iteration can even be purchased as a “takedown” model (more on this shortly).
The .300 Blackout Scout is the main subject of this post but, according to CVA’s somewhat contradictory website, it’s also chambered for the .243 Win, .350 Legend, .35 Whelen, 444 Marlin,.450 Bushmaster and .45/70 (along with a new .410-bore turkey model). However, depending on where you click, other versions appear in 6.5 Creedmore, 7mm-08, and .44 Magnum.
I found the site a bit confusing, but the Scout’s ambidextrous advantages were clearly touted. The hammer has a reversible thumb extension, and the stock can accommodate righties or lefties. Made from molded plastic, the butt is fitted with a “CrushZone” recoil pad.
The barrel ships with a preinstalled “DuraSight” one-piece scope base, advertised to “accept most new standard scope rings found on the market today”. Sold in various lengths and finishes, the stainless heavy-hitters are fitted with muzzle-brakes. Others are blued, shorter stocked “Compact” models. At one point, pistol versions were offered, but they don’t appear on the current CVA website.
Pricing led to a bit more confusion. Apparently, a basic Scout lists for $375, others as much as $465. Produced in Spain, the barrels supposedly come from Bergara’s well known factory (connected to CVA). The Scouts come with a lifetime warranty.
The .300 Blackout Cartridge
By its design, the .300 Blackout Scout is a bit of an odd duck, as is the bipolar cartridge. What sets it apart from a long list of .30-calibers is two distinct velocity options: supersonic and subsonic.
Designed for use in AR-15s, the speediest .300 Blk rendition can drive 110-grain bullets to around 2350 fps. But the rationale for its development is really tied to its slower quiet side, which brings us to silencers. The Blackout – an evolution of the .300 Whisper- was designed to eliminate telltale supersonic cracks, using ultra-heavy bullets of 190 to 220-grains. When fired at subsonic velocities via light powder charges, these odd-looking loads can generate the pressures required for reliable function. They’ll also fit a standard AR-15 bolt and can cycle through its action and magazines. Thus, a conversion to .300 Blk only requires a different barrel, or complete upper receiver assembly. Of possible interest to reloaders, cases can even be formed from shortened .223/5.56 brass (the source for most of my loads).
Thread a “can” on the muzzle and the result is an extremely quiet report. Or shoot supersonic loads and reap the benefits of increased .30-caliber punch. Downsides? Depending on the AR-15, a bit of tinkering could be necessary to gain reliable subsonic function. The backpressures produced by a suppressor may also expel some gas through the receiver.
These issues are rendered moot with a bolt-action or, for a bit less money, a simple break-barrel Scout. Suppressed, it’ll also be quieter than a semiauto thanks to its solidly locked breech.
The Blackout Scout
This Scout’s most striking feature is its size – really “short”! Another is its heft, not a crowbar, but not a flyweight. Its abbreviated length is mostly a product of a compact receiver; much shorter than an AR-15’s. The Scout’s barrel is actually the same length as a standard carbine, and its beefy contour accounts for the heft.
While in the midst of writing this, a new Scout showed up – which happened to be my son’s. Since it’s a current-production example, I borrowed it to record some specs.
The barrel, which measures 16 ½-inches, is long enough to exceed the federal minimum (16” per NFA regs), but short enough to remain handy with a can attached. Its rear diameter is a chunky one inch, gradually tapering to .750” at the muzzle’s threads. Machined 5/8×24 (common for .30-calibers), the threads are protected by a knurled collar.
To stabilize heavy and slow subsonics, the bore is rifled 1:8, the same quick rate utilized by many other Blackouts. The Scout’s barrel sheds a bit of weight through a series of attractive flutes, but its stiffness isn’t compromised, an advantage with a suppressor (lighter barrels are more likely to experience zero shifts).
Weight, according to my scale, is 6 pounds, 6.5 ounces.
Overall length is 31 ½-inches. That’s 3 ½” less than a 16” AR-15 adjusted to the same LOP (when measured to their actual muzzles).
The stock’s length-of-pull (LOP) is 14-inches. The butt has a molded-in QD sling boss and the forend is fitted with a steel QD stud, convenient for the attachment of a sling with QD swivels.
The trigger averaged a consistent but very light 2-pound pull (10 measurements). My older Scout’s trigger was also consistent but was a more field-friendly 3 pounds – not that you’d carry one cocked.
Typical of break-barrels, the Scout’s hammer is a rebounding design. Contact with the firing pin is only established if the trigger is held to the rear. The action can be opened without undue effort by the shooting hand. My nine-year-old version is pretty much the same gun, but it was fitted with a CVA one-piece Z-2 integral base & 1-inch ring system. The latest Picatinny-type base-only offering is much more versatile.
Until it was unboxed, my son had no idea his new Scout was a “takedown” model. Ordered because of its spiffy camo stock and catchy burnt bronze Cerakote finish, it arrived free of defects. But the latch on its forend was a mystery. A comparison of my Scout to his revealed its purpose.
My forend is attached to the barrel by two screws. His can be disassembled by a simple flip of the latch. The Deeley-type release allows the barrel to separate from the frame per a typical double or O/U shotgun. This feature, unadvertised by its seller, accounted for the “TD” on the label of its box. CVA’s website sums it up nicely:
“The SCOUT™ TD comes with either a 22” or 25” (heavier calibers) fluted, stainless steel barrel. Featuring quick-take-down and tool-free disassembly, it’s also a great stowaway emergency/survival gun for the camp, boat, or truck.”
True enough! Guess they missed the 16” Blackout though. Its longest piece, disassembled, is the 18 ¼-inch receiver half.
Fielding the Scout
This Scout may be short, but its 14-inch stock is definitely “adult-sized”. I wound up ordering an inexpensive 13” Compact stock for mine directly through CVA, mostly to solve a fit issue (it grew 2 ½” upon the installation of a suppressor mount, exceeding the size of its 34” case). The shorter stock was also a better match for the eye relief of my scope when bundled up in winter clothing.
Sighing Systems & Ballistics
Although no iron sights are provided, the preinstalled base will accommodate numerous red-dot sights (or magnifying prismatic versions), and scopes. Suitable rings shouldn’t be an issue, but hammer clearance and eye relief are worth considering (more a matter of fit due to negligible recoil).
Because my Scout is part of a larger .300 Blk collection, its main diet consists of 110-grain supersonics, so I just zero its vintage Burris 4X Mini-scope at 100 yards and call it good. The scope’s small size maintains a semblance of handiness and its basic crosshairs suffice.
Shoot supers and subs through the same rifle and you’ll need to compensate for their trajectories. Lots of good candidates though, at various price points. One I’ve been eyeballing is Leupold’s VX Freedom 1.5-4×20 scope ($300). Coupled with its 1” tube and generous eye relief, the graduated “MOA-ring” version looks “right”.
Due to the disparate velocities of subsonics and supersonics – 1050 Vs 2350 fps – each load will require a predetermined zero (through come-ups or a reticle). If sighted in with 110-gr. supersonics at 100 yards, plan on around a foot of drop through a switch to subs. Useful ranges? Around 200 and 100 yards, respectively. Neither will ever come close to a .308 Winchester, but the power is there to handle game through average-size deer with the right bullets.
A 1:8 twist is a bit quick for light bullets but most Blackouts, to include the CVAs, will shoot 1 ½” 100-yard groups (1.5 MOA) or better – not match grade, but still useful. Ditto for subsonics. The CVA Bergara-built barrels lock up solidly via a sturdy bite and are known for their good accuracy.
If you live in Wyoming this kind of rig probably won’t cut it; you’ll more than likely need more range and power. Same for the larger numbers of hunters like another son. Being less of a “gun person”, virtually all of his needs are covered through a pair of .22 LR and .30’06 bolt-actions, and one 12 Gauge pump shotgun.
Meanwhile, the owner of the TD Scout has a growing son of his own. And, in that platform, the .300 Blackout could make a great starter gun. Recoil, flash and muzzle blast are much less than a .243. Subsonics, of course, are even milder, and will function through a bare muzzle just fine. For handloaders this opens the gateway to versions with lighter bullets, or even .32-20 and .32 ACP-class small game loads.
My Scout joined a growing collection of.300 Blackouts during 2014, primarily for use as a basic truck gun. Although fitted with a QD suppressor mount, it seldom sees a can. Instead, I use it the same way many others probably will. It’s just a basic, weatherproof gun that can handle most chores without breaking the bank. Likewise, ammo costs aren’t prohibitive, and also fairly common.
Based upon online listings, .300 Blk Scouts fetch higher prices, but most still run less than $500. That’s around the same cost as an AR-15 upper receiver, but any “necessary” extras should be minimal thanks to its self-contained design. A classic KISS system, it’s also legal just about everywhere. CVA’s latest .350 Legend is another viable option, although 5.56 case-conversions are a no-go.
- Markwith, Steve (Author)
- English (Publication Language)